By Suzanne Barlyn
PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) – The chief executive of embattled blood testing company Theranos Inc on Monday said the privately-held firm is working diligently to rectify all of its outstanding issues involving its product and laboratory operations.
Speaking before some 1,000 scientists at the American Association for Clinical Chemistry meeting in Philadelphia, Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes described new products that she said are “distinct from the operations of our clinical laboratories” that have come under scrutiny.
Holmes delivered her presentation to a standing-room-only crowd in a cavernous room at the Philadelphia Convention Center.
Among the new experimental products Holmes discussed was a so-called minilab technology and a diagnostic for Zika that she said can detect additional strains of the mosquito-borne virus, currently racing across the Americas.
Holmes said it collected blood samples for the Zika test using finger-prick technology and that the company had sent the results to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. She insisted the analysis of blood collected using the finger-prick is similarly effective as other methods.
The company, once valued at $9 billion, was founded by Holmes in 2003 to develop an innovative blood testing device that would give quicker results using just one drop of blood.
Members of the audience applauded several times when doctors on the stage challenged aspects of Theranos technology.
Dr. Stephen Master, a pathologist at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, said much interest in the company stemmed from claims it made which were very broad.
“The evidence you presented fell far short of that,” Master said to applause.
Prior to introducing Holmes, association president Patricia Jones said the organization does not endorse Theranos. “We’re all aware that there have been some suggestions about whether we’ll see some science today and the viability of Theranos technology,” Jones said.
Theranos ran into trouble after the Wall Street Journal published a series of articles beginning last October suggesting the blood-testing devices were flawed and inaccurate.
Holmes last month was barred by U.S. regulators from owning or operating a lab for at least two years and, in a crushing blow, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services revoked a key certificate for its California lab and terminated the facility’s approval to receive government payments.
Walgreens Boots Allianceterminated its relationship with the company in June and closed operations at all 40TheranosWellness Centers at its drug stores in Arizona.
(Reporting by Suzanne Barlyn and Bill Berkrot; Editing by Sandra Maler)